THE LIBRARY OF THE
AT CHAPEL HILL
THE COLLECTION OF
FOR USE ONLY IN
THE NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Growing Up in North Carolina
The Uncommon Laureate:
Sketches in the Life of Charles Kuralt
Wallace H. Kuralt, Jr.
Together with Proceedings of a Banquet on the Occasion of the
Presentation of the North Caroliniana Society Award for 1993
NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY IMPRINTS
This edition is limited to
five hundred signed copies
of which this is number
n n n
NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY IMPRINTS
H. G. Jones, General Editor
No. 1. An Evening at Monticello: An Essay in Reflection (1978)
by Edwin M. Gill
No. 2. The Paul Green I Know (1978)
by Elizabeth Lay Green
No. 3. The Albert Coates I Know (1979)
by Gladys Hall Coates
No. 4. The Sam Ervin I Know (1980)
by Jean Conyers Ervin
No. 5. Sam Ragan (1981)
by Neil Morgan
No. 6. Thomas Wolfe of North Carolina (1982)
edited by H. G. Jones
No. 7. Gertrude Sprague Carraway (1982)
by Sam Ragan
No. 8. John Fries Blair (1983)
by Margaret Blair McCuiston
No. 9. William Clyde Friday and Ida Howell Friday (1984)
by Georgia Carroll Kyser and William Brantley Aycock
No. 10. William S. Powell, North Carolina Historian (1985)
by David Stick and William C. Friday
No. 11. "Gallantry Unsurpassed" (1985)
edited by Archie K. Davis
No. 12. Mary and Jim Semans, North Carolinians (1986)
by W. Kenneth Goodson
No. 13. The High Water Mark (1986)
edited by Archie K. Davis
No. 14. Raleigh and Quinn (1987)
edited by H. G. Jones
No. 15. A Half Century in Coastal History (1987)
by David Stick
No. 16. Thomas Wolfe at Eighty-seven (1988)
edited by H. G. Jones
No. 1.7. A Third of a Century in Senate Cloakrooms (1988)
by William McWhorter Cochrane
No. 18. The Emma Neal Morrison I Know (1989)
by Ida Howell Friday
No. 19. Thomas Wolfe's Composition Books (1990)
edited by Alice R. Cotten
No. 20. My Father, Burke Davis (1990)
by Angela Davis-Gardner
No. 21. A Half Century with Rare Books (1991)
by Lawrence F. London
No. 22. Frank H. Kenan: An Appreciation (1992)
edited by Archie K. Davis
No. 23. Growing Up in North Carolina, by Charles Kuralt
The Uncommon Laureate, by Wallace H. Kuralt, Jr. (1993)
Growing Up in North Carolina
The Uncommon Laureate:
Sketches in the Life of Charles Kuralt
Wallace H. Kuralt, Jr.
Together with Proceedings of a Banquet on the Occasion of the
Presentation of the North Caroliniana Society Award for 1993
North Caroliniana Society, Inc.
and North Carolina Collection
Copyright © 1993 by
North Caroliniana Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 127
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514-0127
All rights reserved
Manufactured in the United States of America
AN AFTERNOON WITH CHARLES KURALT
As a prelude to "An Evening with Charles Kuralt," the North Caroliniana Society
invited Charles Kuralt to give a public address in Hanes Art Center Auditorium on
Friday afternoon, 21 May 1993. His subject, "Growing Up in North Carolina" includ-
ed reflections on the first six years of his life. His paper, preceded by an introduction
by William C Friday, president of the Society, is published herein.
Charles Bishop Kuralt was born in Wilmington on 10 September 1934, the first
son of Wallace Hamilton and Ina Bishop Kuralt. Folloiving graduation jrom the University
oj North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1955, he was a reporter for the Charlotte News,
1955-51; writer for CBS News, 1957-59; correspondent for CBS News, 1959 to the
present; and is host of the CBS News program "Sunday Morning." His books include
To the Top of the World (1968), Dateline America (1979), On the Road with
Charles Kuralt (1985), Southerners (1986), North Carolina Is My Home (1986),
and A Life on the Road (1990). Recipient of the Ernie Pyle Memorial Award in
1956 and Broadcaster of the Year Award in 1985, he has also won multiple Ernmys
and George Foster Peabody Broadcasting awards. At a dinner following the address published
herein, he received the 1993 North Caroliniana Society Award for outstanding contribu-
tions to the history and culture of his native North Carolina.
Introduction of Charles Kuralt
William C. Friday
[President Friday first introduced Charles Kuralt's father, Wallace H. Kuralt,
Sr., and brother, Wallace H. Kuralt, Jr.]
Those of you who have had the joy of viewing "North Carolina Is My
Home," that great television program that Charles and his friend Loonis
McGlohon did, may remember a very special section in which Charles talks
about his Grandfather Bishop and of that swing out on the tree from which
he could see to the end of the lane. I have always felt that it was from those
experiences and from that time that Charles's lifelong advocacy of nature — the
birds and animals and flowers and trees— was born. He had a wonderful boyhood,
followed by his growing up in Charlotte and then, his journey here at Chapel
Hill, where we all knew him as student and editor. Charles, it is really refreshing
to find a national voice like yours that talks about nature but that also talks
about and shows compassion and deep concern for human values, and it is especial-
ly heartwarming to all of us to know that those words and that mind and that
heart come from one who is in the University family. So we salute you. Your
essays have taken on much more strength of late, and I am glad to hear you
speaking out so intently on some issues. You get us started that way on Sunday
morning, and then it is that sense of harmony that you have with nature that
closes every Sunday and sends us on our way into a new week of work and
enjoyment. Like all of our members, I rejoice in your success and your continu-
ing love and abiding devotion to Chapel Hill and this University. Charles, we
all look forward to hearing about your "Growing Up in North Carolina."
Growing Up in North Carolina
I was in Oslo, Norway, last month working on some stories about Nor-
way in preparation for the Winter Olympic Games to be held there next year.
I wanted to do a story about the Nobel Peace Prize, which, under the terms
of Alfred Nobel's will, is awarded in Oslo, you know, so I dropped around
to the Nobel Institute and asked the director if I might have the use of the
Peace Prize gold medal for the afternoon. I wanted to take it down the street
to the magnificent room in the Oslo City Hall where the Prize is awarded each
year in order that I might stand in the room holding the medal and talk about
it on camera. The director was agreeable, and asked an assistant to bring the
medal to his office. It arrived in a fine, velvet-lined walnut box, which was
handed to me. Just as I was about to depart, the director said, "Oh, I suppose
it might be a good idea for you to give me a receipt." He wrote one out on
Nobel Institute stationery, and I signed it. When I returned the medal, he gave
me the receipt, and I have it. It says, "I have received the Nobel Peace Prize. . . ."
Of course, this makes me one with Mother Teresa.
Except for the next line, which reads, ". . .and I promise to return it by
10 o'clock tomorrow morning."
This experience makes me especially grateful for the award of the North
Caroliniana Society, which I am to receive tonight, and which H. G. Jones
assures me I do not have to return at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.
I am deeply sensible of the honor of joining a company that includes men
and women I have admired most of my life, the previous recipients of this
award — the likes of Bill and Ida Friday, William S. Powell, Paul Green, and
so on, a North Carolina Pantheon. By comparison, I have done little to deserve
this recognition. But I have welcomed the chance to rummage around in my
North Carolina memories, and to blurt them out here, just as if they would
be interesting to you. I might have yielded to the temptation to talk about
my teenage years in Charlotte at the old Central High School and my happy
four years in Chapel Hill and my return to Charlotte to work for The Charlotte
News when that newspaper was an exemplar of all that journalism should be
in a small southern city (which Charlotte was back then). But my brother,
Wallace, is going to touch on those aspects of my life, and probably touch on
them none too softly, at a dinner of the Society this evening. So I have set
myself a greater challenge: to limit myself to memories Wallace doesn't have—
namely, my life in North Carolina prior to 1940.
Since I was born in 1934, this idea, it may seem to you, does not hold
much hope of providing an interesting hour. But my earliest memories are ones
I never before have trotted out in public, and my hope is that they will prove
instructive to young people in the audience, and provide those of my own age
with certain memories of their own.
In fact, my early North Carolina upbringing was, on the surface, unexcep-
tional, except, perhaps, for the number of places we lived in my youth. I was
born in Wilmington, but I have no recollection of Wilmington; I only went
there to be born. We lived in Lumberton, but I do not remember Lumberton;
I was too young. We lived in Fayetteville; ditto. My first memories are of Sted-
man, a hamlet near Fayetteville, where my mother was the home economics
teacher at the Stedman school within sight of our house. In the folklore of
our family, there is a story that I embarrassed my parents by bragging in polite
company back home in Onslow County that our house in Stedman had an
indoor toilet. Well, it did.
I went back to Stedman a few years ago, and found everything just as I
remembered it: the old house, still unpainted, with a great welcoming porch;
the enormous magnolia tree in the front yard; the same sandy walk beside the
road toward the store and the railroad track, passing the same picket fence enclos-
ing the same strawberry patch. (Imagine, a patch of our progressive and in-
dustrious and rapidly developing state that has found no better use than to pro-
duce sweet strawberries for more than fifty summers!) The small wooden railroad
station, however, was on the wrong side of the road, and had become the post
office. I walked into the post office to ask whether I was right about this. The
woman behind the counter said, "Oh yes, the train doesn't stop here any more.
We moved this building in about 1947." I was satisfied with that and thanked
her. But she was still peering at me. She had something to say. She said, "How
is your mother?" I said, "She's fine," which was true at the time. She said,
"Your mother taught me everything I ever learned about cooking and keeping
So that was my gift from Stedman, to have my mother well-remembered
My own memories of Stedman are mostly of my mother. My father hugged
us all goodbye on Sunday afternoons and walked across the highway with a
black suitcase and stuck out his thumb. I remember watching until a car stop-
ped and picked him up. He was hitch-hiking to Chapel Hill. He already had
his University of North Carolina degree, with honors in business, I now under-
stand, and his Phi Beta Kappa key, but those were of little use in the circumstances
of 1938. He had returned to school to study in a line of work that he had
found interesting, and where good people were actually in demand, even in
the Depression — especially in the Depression! My father was spending that year
at the Graduate School of Social Work . . . never imagining, I am certain, that
he was embarking on a pioneering career, humane and compassionate, that would
result, more than fifty years later, in the establishment of the first named pro-
fessorship in the history of the School of Social Work at the University of North
Carolina, the Wallace H. Kuralt chair ... or that he would be back in Chapel
Hill one day to hear his son mention that fact. It gives me great pleasure, Papa,
to mention that fact.
So from Sunday to Friday, when he came hitchhiking home again, my
father was gone, away over the horizon in Chapel Hill. From 8 a.m. until 5
p.m. on school days, my mother was gone, teaching school in the brick building
I could see from my bedroom, and life in Stedman was sometimes a little bor-
ing for a four-year-old. One day, I relieved the boredom by finding a pair of
scissors and rearranging the patches on my mother's favorite patchwork quilt.
Rosa caught me at it. Rosa was the patient, beautiful, young black woman
who was my baby-sitter, whom I loved, and who loved me, too, and who told
me stories, and made me apple butter, and was right about everything; which
is why I remember her alarming remark of that day: "When your mother comes
home, you are going to get a spanking!" I had all afternoon to reflect on this
dire prediction, and to wonder whether it might prove true. It did prove true,
which made me feel miserable for myself, but more certain than ever that Rosa
really was right about everything.
I have one other memory of Stedman, which fixes that village in time.
The word came that President Roosevelt's train would be coming to Stedman,
on the way from Warm Springs back to Washington. The hour was after my
bedtime, but I remember walking in the twilight with my mother and father
past the picket fence and the strawberry patch, down to the train station. There
we stood with all of Stedman, dozens of other people, standing there as the
dusk turned to dark, all of us waiting. Presently, we saw the headlight far down
the track. It grew nearer and brighter, and we could hear the train approaching.
It whistled for the crossing, a deafening mournful whistle, and it flashed past
us, the great engine and several cars, in a blast of steam and cinders. Perhaps
there were lights in the cars; I don't remember. In an instant, the train vanished
away to the north, and the night was silent again. And everybody turned away
and walked home, satisfied. We had seen President Roosevelt's train go by.
We moved to Salisbury. We lived in a brick house on a hill above the
highway. I can fix Salisbury in time, too. I had a playmate named Billy. Usually
we played with a ball in Billy's yard, or, more satisfactorily, with toy soldiers
in the dirt under Billy's house, a sort of stinking sandbox polluted by rotten
chinaberries and dog droppings, a place where, for some reason, we were happy.
But one day, we were up on the hill, watching the cars go by on the highway,
when one of them pulled off on the shoulder, with engine trouble, I suppose,
and a man got out and opened the hood. And the hood didn't open from one
side or the other, like an accordion, the way hoods opened then. It opened
from the front, all in one piece, and held itself open while the man peered in-
side. Up on the hill, Billy and I were amazed. We felt we had just witnessed
the coming of a new age, and we ran home to tell our mothers.
We moved to Washington, North Carolina, on the Pamlico River. There,
my friends and I wore towels as capes and played Superman, or rode broomsticks
as cowboys, or wore towels and rode sticks as Superman on horseback. We all
had a stick for a horse, except for Charles, a rich boy who lived in a great white
house on the river, who had a horse for a horse. Since none of us had a horse,
and since he wouldn't climb down from his horse and ride a stick, we never
played with him. I felt sorry for him, and wished to befriend him, but couldn't
think of a way. It was my first experience with the camaraderie of the common
people and the loneliness of the upper classes. There was nothing to be done
There, on the riverbank, we found part of a raft, and boarded it, and laun-
ched ourselves a little way down the river beside the bank until the raft grew
tippy and threatened to float out into the main current, whereupon we all jumped
off and clambered ashore soaking wet, and dried ourselves in the sun and pro-
mised never to tell. And until this moment, I believe I never have.
In Washington, North Carolina, a number of things happened that af-
fected my life ever after. My brother was born there. This was a nuisance. I
knew he would prove to be a thorn in my side, which he has been from time
to time, most recently yesterday morning when he took me out to Finley Golf
Course and beat me by 17 strokes.
So I gained my first sibling in Washington. Far more important at the
time, I caught my first fish. My father and I were trolling from a rowboat
in the Pamlico River. We had reeled in to pass under the railroad bridge . . .
everybody knew that eels were all you caught under the railroad bridge, and
they snarled your line terribly . . . and just as we cast our lines out again, I
felt a shock go through my arms and shoulders. I can feel that shock today.
My father dropped the oars to keep the rod from flying out of my hands, but
he let me do as much of the reeling as I could, and helped me land a giant
rock fish, as they are known in Beaufort County, a striped bass, fully five pounds,
which soon flailed around in the bottom of the boat.
"Hold onto him!" my father shouted as he started rowing hard for shore.
But I couldn't hold on to him; I didn't know where to hold. So I threw myself
upon that fish, weighted him down with my whole body, and with my whole
heart and soul, and struggled all the way to the dock to prevent that fish from
We took my fish home to the Green Court Apartments. We put him in
a washpan, over the ends of which his head and tail extended. We walked him
upstairs to a neighbor's where my mother was attending a meeting of the Garden
"I caught him!" I said. I pointed to my slimy shirt.
"Oh, you bought him at the fish store," my mother said and touched him.
Whereupon that fish did me the great favor of flopping, to show that he was
not a storebought fish. My mother squealed. I beamed.
That day made me a fisherman. I do my fishing in Montana now, casting
bits of fur and feather into the current in the hope of fooling wise old trout,
in rivers where the striped bass do not run. I mostly put the fish back, out
of sportsmanship, I tell myself, but possibly out of disappointment that they
are never so big any more that I have to fall on them to hold them down.
In Washington, though I am sure we couldn't afford it, we acquired a
set of World Book encyclopedias. After that, I never got a simple answer to a
childhood question. It was always, "Well, let's go look it up" from my father.
And I started school in Washington ... or rather, kindergarten, at the
only kindergarten in town, the one at St. Agnes Academy, the Catholic School.
There, Sister Rosalind was impressed that I could read; at least I could read
the gas station logos and certain billboards and certain children's books and cer-
tain words from the World Book encyclopedia. She was also impressed that when
some of the other children went to Anthony Abayounis's birthday party instead
of coming to school, I came to school instead of going to Anthony Abayounis's
birthday party. And when, in the course of being told, "Thou shalt worship
no graven images," I piped up and asked then what were all those statues of
the Virgin Mary and the Saints doing around the school, the other nuns frowned,
but Sister Rosalind smiled. She promoted me to the first grade, though I was
This was no favor to me, in fact. It was to mean that all the way through
school, I was at least a year younger than my classmates. I had one year's less
experience than they at dealing with such things as baseball and dancing and
flirting and dating. I was to feel a little awkward and inexperienced later on
in high school. I was actually enrolled as a freshman in the University as an
innocent of 16. My pals were all older than I, my girlfriends were older, in
time my wives were to be older than I — both of them. All because of Sister
At the time, of course, I thought it was wonderful to be in the first grade.
Not as wonderful as catching a fish, but very nice, and I worked hard at my
school work and stopped saying anything about graven images, so that Sister
Rosalind would be proud of me. She taught us numbers and words, and not
just English words, either, but also French words. I remember the French word
for piano. It is "piano." I thought I could catch on to this French if it continued
Summertimes and holidays, we often returned to my mother's home in
the corner of Onslow County that long-time residents still refer to as "Southwest."
I remember every detail of life there on the hundred-acre tobacco farm that seemed
to me the authentic center of the world. I remember every mole hill in the
sandy front yard of the old house, and the location of every sycamore tree in
the side yard, and the place of every outbuilding . . . the hay loft which also
housed the farm cart, the corncrib where I was startled by a snake. (Don't be
afraid, said my playmate from the farm down the road, it's only a grain snake.
I thought for years that the name of that reptile was grain snake, the kind of
snake that frequents corn cribs. The day arrived when I realized he was saying
"green snake" in the accent of Southwest Onslow County.)
I remember Buck, the youngest son of the black family who lived up the
road in the other direction, and whose yard I always visited until Christmas
of 1939 when Santa Claus brought me a bicycle. After that, Buck visited my
yard, offering to teach me to ride. He taught by example, up and down the
road and around the yard, by the hour, calling back over his shoulder, "See
how easy it is?" until I wished his mother would call him home.
I remember my grandfather, John Bishop, his white moustache tobacco
stained, clad always in overalls. I was in awe of him. He could do anything
expertly— split a log or slaughter a hog or ride a mule or cure a ham or chink
a tobacco barn — and everything, he did expertly, with a certain easy style, and
everything he did, he offered to let me try, too. I remember him sitting on
his tool box in the shade of the side yard with a bucket of oysters, methodically
opening them, scooping the oysters into his mouth with the oyster knife and
tossing the shells back into the bucket. And I remember his laughter when
he offered to let me try that, too, and I made a face and ran away.
Sometimes, I was left in the care of my grandmother. This was always
a joy. She was a teacher and reader of books. She taught half the children in
that part of the county to read, and she read to me from the travel books of
Richard Halliburton and the short stories of O. Henry and the poems of Kip-
ling and Poe. I do believe I gained a love of words and the rhythm of language
from my grandmother, Rena Bishop, and perhaps a sense of the romance of
travel, too. From her, I heard for the first time such words as "Sphinx" and
"pagoda" and "igloo" and "Taj Mahal." And I worked my way through books
on her shelf which she never read to me at all, learning words on my own,
the most exciting of which was in a book of stories by Guy DeMaupassant.
It still gives me a little thrill to hear the word: "chemise."
At my grandmother's house, I gained a liberal education — more liberal then
even she knew, as you see. And this in a house without plumbing or electricity
on a dirt road a long way from town. I am acquainted with city people who
think of country people as backward and uneducated. I knew better than that
before I was six years old.
One day, I saw my grandmother standing at the end of the driveway, and
when I ran out to join her, I was startled to see that she was crying, wiping
her eyes with her apron. I had never seen her cry and it upset me. But it needn't
have. Those were tears of joy. Up the road, off in the distance, were coming
the REA light poles that would banish the kerosene lamps and give us a proud
bare electric light bulb hanging over the table in the kitchen. That farm entered
modern times, which finally, of course, consumed the farm. The farm yard is
the parking lot of a supermarket now, the house and the barn and the sycamore
trees all gone, and there is no sign of the rich life that was lived there in the
time when my grandmother read to me.
Thinking back on those days, I see a theme . . . one that has emerged
as a major theme and question of life in America all these years later— namely,
what is a working couple . . . my mother and father in this early example . . .
going to do with a young child, in this early example — me? It was my parents'
effort to answer this question that made the gentle and infallible Rosa, and
her apple butter and buttermilk biscuits, such an important part of my early
life, and Sister Rosalind, who taught me French, or tried to, and my grand-
mother, who read me poetry, and other caretakers of different ages, religions,
colors, sexes. I learned from each of them. In the small towns of North Carolina,
I now understand, and before my sixth birthday, I was becoming cosmopolitan!
My father was now a field supervisor for the state Department of Public
Welfare, and of all those who took turns caring for me, he was my favorite.
It sometimes fell to him to take me along on his visits to the welfare offices
in the county seats of eastern North Carolina, and I loved these trips. Here,
I quote myself, from a memoir I wrote a few years ago, A Life on the Road.
We rolled along the country roads to the old tidewater towns,
Edenton and Plymouth and New Bern and Swanquarter, my father
smoking Tampa Nuggets and spinning yarns for my amusement.
He tried a little history on me, thinking to improve my mind:
"The people here didn't like the British governor, and had a fight
with the British at this bridge." He filled me with local lore: "At
Harkers Island over there, they make wonderful strong boats and
go to sea in them." He taught me to read the Burma-Shave signs:
" 'Twould Be More Fun ... To Go by Air . . . But We Couldn't
Put . . . These Signs Up There. Burma-Shave." We stopped in the
afternoons to fish for a few minutes in roadside creeks turned black
by the tannin of cypress trees, my father casting a red-and-white
plug expertly with the old bait-casting rod he carried in the trunk,
and patiently picking out the backlashes that snarled the reel when
I tried it. We stopped for suppers of pork chops, sweet potatoes
and collard greens at roadside cafes, and rolled on into the night,
bound for some tourist home down the road, my father telling
tales and I listening in rapture, just the two of us, rolling on, wrap-
ped in a cloud of companionship and smoke from his five-cent cigar.
Years later, when ray father served for nearly thirty years as Superinten-
dent of Public Welfare of Mecklenburg County, he started a great county day
care initiative, establishing child development centers for the pre-school children
of working mothers. It was an idea that occurred to him many years before
its time. He sold it to the county commissioners on the grounds that it would
put welfare mothers back to work. But I think it was the children he was thinking
of. Every one of those day care centers had a set of World Book encyclopedias.
My father had the notion, still has it, that by the age of six, before the
institutions of society get hold of a child, the child's life already is pretty well
formed, for good or ill. He or she will already have been well-loved, or not,
and will have known some successes and gained some confidence, and formed
some interests and some childish ambition, or not.
And I, thinking back on the days before I was six, find nothing in this
theory to disagree with. I see that I was a little boy of no money, but much
privilege. I wish every child in our state, and in the world, the kind of childhood
I had in the Depression days of the 1930s in North Carolina.
AN EVENING WITH CHARLES KURALT
On the evening of Friday, 21 May 1993, in the Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, jriends
and family attended a reception and banquet honoring Charles Kuralt on the occasion
of his acceptance of the North Caroliniana Society Award for 1993. The award recognized
Kuralt for his contributions to the enhancement, preservation, and promotion of North
Carolina's cultural heritage. The master of ceremonies was H. G. Jones, curator of the
North Carolina Collection and secretary-treasurer of the North Caroliniana Society; and
the award was presented by William C Friday, president of the Society. Their remarks,
along with the recipient's response and the address given by his only brother, Wallace
Hamilton Kuralt, Jr., are published in this the twenty-third number of the North Caroli-
niana Society Imprints series.
Opening Remarks and Introductions
by H. G. Jones
Friends of Charles Kuralt, and those who love to browse in Wallace's
Intimate Bookshops: Welcome to this Kuralt family reunion. If this head table
seems to be arranged in an unorthodox manner, it is because we have broken
precedent by seating father and sons together on one side. They may want to
trade some family secrets during dinner.
Bill and Ida Friday and I will share the company of Wallace's Brenda on
the Carrboro end of the table. On the New Hope Creek side, let us welcome
the distinguished North Carolinian for whom the Wallace H. Kuralt professor-
ship in public policy and administration is named, father Wallace H. Kuralt,
Sr., and his boys —Wallace, Jr., and, of course, the man on the road, Charles.
We regret that daughter and sister Catherine could not get here from the state
of Washington in time for dinner.
Now, please enjoy some nourishment before we turn on the talkers.
The North Caroliniana Society is not really a secret organization, but it
is a very modest one, intentionally small, that stresses substance rather than
show, accomplishment rather than pronouncement, and service rather than dues.
Our purpose is simple: to promote increased knowledge and understanding of
North Carolina's historical and cultural heritage. Twenty years ago, in his
memorable address, "The Veil of Humility," our immediate past president said,
". . .we are the modern recipients of all that has gone on before. What we are
today is in almost exact proportion to who they [earlier generations] were and
what they did in the yesterdays of our past." No person better characterizes
the ideal North Carolinian than the gentleman who spoke those words, and
I am pleased to call upon his successor and devoted friend, one Tar Heel who
truly needs no introduction, President William Friday.
[President Friday, expressing enormous gratitude and good wishes, presented the
Society's Honorary Life Membership to Archie K. Davis in absentia.]
Archie, you were already the only member of the Society who continues
to register as a student every semester. Now you are also our only Honorary
Life Member. We know that you and Mary Louise are with us tonight in spirit.
Beginning with Paul Green in 1978, the North Caroliniana Society Award
has recognized men and women who have made noteworthy contributions to
the cultural life of our state. The historic sterling bowl representing the award,
sitting here on the table, looks much more imposing in its handsome floor-
based ensemble, designed by John and Ann Sanders, in the Reading Room of
the North Carolina Collection. The simplicity of the smaller sterling goblet
that goes to the honoree is suggestive of the character of a modest people. Sad-
ly, several of our recipients have passed away, one of them — Gertrude Carraway—
just two weeks ago. Happily, though, some are with us again tonight: 1984,
William and Ida Friday; 1985, William S. Powell; 1988, William McWhorter
Cochrane; 1991, Lawrence F. London; and we always like to include Albert
Coates's beloved Gladys, as young as ever after celebrating her 91st birthday
As is our custom, the proceedings of this evening, as well as Charles's
fascinating address this afternoon, will be preserved in No. 23 in our signed,
limited-edition North Caroliniana Society Imprint series, a copy of which will
go to you later this year.
When we first approached Charles about accepting the North Caroliniana
Society Award for 1993, he said he would come provided he could bring his
bus filled with his papers that are running him out of office and home. I reminded
him that Chapel Hill doesn't have parking for automobiles, much less a bus.
Furthermore, we have over in Wilson Library a young clone of deRoulhac
Hamilton — also beginning to acquire the nickname Ransack— and we should
not deprive him of the privilege of driving a van in New York City traffic.
So, David Moltke-Hansen, Charles awaits your call, for he has graciously agreed
to place his papers in the the University Library, exactly where they should
be. Please join me in expressing appreciation to Charles for this reaffirmation
of the title of his wonderful video and book, North Carolina Is My Home.
Some of you may have observed that on the printed program there is no
Jr. or Sr. after the name of our speaker. We hope that kept you in suspense,
for who better could tell us about Charles Kuralt than his father or brother?
We chose brother Wallace, for he is a fixture here in this University town; fur-
thermore, we suspect that he can share with us some youthful memories that
Charles may not have mentioned — accidentally or deliberately— this afternoon.
If there be disagreement over such memories, father Wallace can be the arbiter.
Wallace himself has had a colorful and highly successful career, starting
with his exalted position as a waiter in Lenoir Hall and his formation of UNC's
Pep Band. One gets the impression in conversation that two people enorm-
ously influenced his career— Paul and Bunny Smith, of hallowed memory, who
introduced him to the book business more than a third of a century ago. At
the Smith's bookshop in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Wallace met his bride-
to-be, and in 1965 they purchased the Intimate Bookshops. Even as the Intimate
has grown and multiplied, the shops have retained a down-homeness that draws
patrons from all over the country. Those who know of the devastating fire that
burned the main Franklin Street store will be comforted to know that con-
struction crews are on the job, and a new Intimate Bookshop within the old
walls may open as early as September. New it may be, but Wallace promises
that its built-in squeaky stairways and floors will make old timers feel right
North Carolina's premiere bookman, Charles's little brother, Wallace Kuralt,
The Uncommon Laureate:
Sketches in the Life of Charles Kuralt
Darn Right He's Heavy— He's My Brother
Wallace H. Kuralt, Jr.
To be invited to speak before a distinguished group such as the North Caro-
liniana Society is, to be sure, a privilege and a pleasure for a poor but honest
bookseller, such as I.
I come before you as the Founder and Chairman of the North Carolina
Chapter of the Yes-I-Am-The-Rrother-Of/Son-Of Club, Y-I-A-T-B-O/S-O, pro-
nounced "yacht bozo." Within these ranks, I have gone from being Wallace's
son to Charles's brother to Justin's dad. And I must admit to being proud of
them all, including my famous big brother.
It's surprising how many of our club prickle at the mention of their noted
relative, even become angry. Not I. On those occasions when someone slips
and calls me "Charles," I make a gentle correction: "No, no," I say; "Charles
is the one with the big bus and the great job; / am the one with the hair"
And now, believe it or not, there's a gentleman from Lexington, North
Carolina, who has a hobby of collecting the autographs of relatives of well-known
people, having us sign U.S. first-day stamp envelopes and send them back to
him. He sent me one of William Saroyan and, of course, I was delighted to
comply with his request. Now that man knows he's getting real autographs,
too; you always hear about how famous people have someone else sign most
of their correspondence, their secretaries — or their brothers. Not us YIATBOSOs.
We answer the 'phone, sign the letters, drive our own cars. I bought an old
limousine once. Drove it myself.
Charles drives his own car. I suspect Charles signs his own letters, too.
And, unlike folks who sign a lot of documents, who develop a signature scrawl
which begins with a recognizable letter or two and then becomes a squiggly
line, Charles forms each letter clearly and thoughtfully. And, when you have
him in, autographing books for a crowd, and the line is still snaking around
past the art books section — and he's due to leave for a TV interview in 20
minutes— just try leaning down and whispering that he might consider using
a squiggle and just signing the things and not chatting with everybody. Withering
look: "Well, I just can't get done any faster." Once, the TV people got their
interview in his hotel room while he had dinner. Twice, we took names and
promised everybody left in line that we'd send them a signed bookplate.
People do ask us of YIATBOSO just what our famous relative is really
like. As though when the camera lights go off and the public goes home he
turns into some priapic beast creating private mayhem. Some years ago, when
Charles received a ticket for driving while impaired (he says a bee got in the
car, or he had a sneezing fit, or something), you could just hear the tongues
a' wagging. "Aha," said they, "he's just like the rest of us. Probably not happy,
either." And when CBS came to Chapel Hill for a "Town Meeting," his co-
anchor Leslie Stahl, upon finding that I was a Kuralt brother, fixed her flashing
eyes upon me and said, "All right. Now let's hear all the dirt."
Well, folks, what you see is what you get. A bright, genuinely friendly
man who has parlayed a lifetime of learning and a talent for finding just the
right words into a career which anyone with any imagination at all must truly
envy. A man who has worked hard at his craft and profession, a man who
has earned his way with long hours and tough assignments, one who has en-
dured stretches on the road and in the air which would exhaust any person
not truly dedicated to the task.
Early on, Charles exhibited a penchant for journalism and broadcasting.
At age 8, he would sit in the front yard and announce "They're up to the line,
and here's the play. It's Justice to Weiner, Justice to Weiner . . . down the sideline
. . . TOUCHDOWN!" This to anyone who might happen to be passing by.
Later on he wrote for the school paper and, at the age of 14, spent many even-
ings at the old Griffith Ball Park in Charlotte announcing games of the Charlotte
Hornets, then a minor league baseball team. He ran his own control board and
gave all the commercials, too. And while this tells a lot about Charles, it speaks
volumes of our dad— who made the 15-mile trip twice each night: Once to take
Charles there, and again to pick him up.
I think our whole lifetimes have been one long learning experience, perhaps
as it should be.
We learned a lot from our parents, I'm sure — mostly by example and
sometimes from a quiet "talking-to." It's remarkable how much they trusted
us, a trust I don't think either of us ever betrayed. Charles was out late or up
early most of his young life. I spent some time on the road cavorting with
known musicians, driving the family car all night from Tennessee to east Georgia
to the Mississippi coast, playing jazz in clubs which most of you would wisely
avoid. I did learn how to climb out of a window carrying my string bass with
me to avoid damage to either of us when the fights would break out. Even
my time in the army didn't teach me as much about self-reliance and self-
preservation as my tour with the jazz groups of the '50s.
Meanwhile, Charles had finished up at Carolina, having been the editor
of The Daily Tar Heel and, of course, the broadcaster of Carolina baseball games.
In high school he had won the "I Speak for Democracy" nationwide contest,
had met Harry Truman at the White House and had learned all the verses of
"Casey at the Bat." (He probably did more than just these things, but, if so,
I didn't know about it.) In college he pursued his careers, collected a sheaf of
honors, took a wife, and headed back to Charlotte to work for the newspaper
at $45 a week. (Probably some subsidy from the parents saw them through.)
He soon won an Ernie Pyle Award for his feature writing, caught the eye of
CBS, and was off to the Big Apple for an extended stay.
Our contacts were few, then. Charles's first job involved working the dog
watch, spending all night on the 17th floor overseeing a ten-foot-square room
filled with teletype machines, each bringing in stories from correspondents scat-
tered all over the world— "News Central." His job was to tear off the stories
and edit them into a five-minute radio newscast each hour— and, of course, to
watch for breaking stories. Nothing fancy, just a table, chair, typewriter, paper—
and a large coffee pot to keep him company. Some months into the job, Charles
awoke to find himself covered with tiny red dots, head to toe. "Drink a lot
of coffee?" the doctor asked. A first — relatively mild— encounter with the hazards
of his profession.
The long hours were tough, no doubt. Then came the pressure. He became
the head writer of the Douglas Edwards network television news program, "Olds
Brings the News." He wrote home that the folks were not to worry. It represented
a great chance for him but, if he were to fail, he would just join a long list
of excellent writers who had gone before him. Doug Edwards won the time
slot all three years Charles wrote it. Then, the year Huntley-Brinkley started— and
began winning all the awards — Charles moved on to become a reporter for CBS
television, reporting mostly local New York news, and later began the prime-
time "Eyewitness to History" for the network. Trouble again showed up, this
time in the form of an advertiser who objected to some of the strong news
content of the show and asked that it be toned down. Charles and his pro-
ducers refused. "He looks too young for such a powerful program," the spon-
sor then complained. Charles was replaced by Walter Cronkite. Shortly after
that, I'm convinced, Charles's full head of hair began to thin in response to
his inner desire to look older.
Charles became a CBS News correspondent, the youngest they had ever had,
and went off to Viet Nam to report. He found a company of other young men —
all Vietnamese, for U.S. troops had not yet been committed to the battle — and
went out into the jungle with them to get some of the war on film. The cap-
tain took his men and Charles off into a "safe" area for the filming — and ran
into a battalion of the enemy. In a ten-minute fire fight, the company lost more
than half its men, including the man just next to Charles. Through it all, Charles
talked into his tape recorder, his quavering voice sometimes blotted out by the
noise of the battle. Suddenly, the noises stopped; the enemy had quietly withdrawn
into the cover of the jungle, perhaps warned that help was on the way.
When Charles returned home to Charlotte at Christmastime he played the
tape for us. It is perhaps the most riveting piece of reporting I've ever heard.
Mother was aghast. Perhaps this corresponding business was not such a glorious
haven, after all.
When he lived in New York, Charles commuted over from Brooklyn Heights,
leaving his lovely and very Southern wife and their two adored daughters to
the brisk and sometimes chilly breezes off the river. On one of their strolls,
trouble came to the marriage: The younger child of these two Southerners noticed
from her carriage a Brooklyn street animal approaching. She correctly identified
it: "Doo-ug," she said, her very first word. Shortly after that, Charles accepted
an assignment to cover all of South America from an office in Rio, and he
went without the family. Though he commuted home to Brooklyn as frequently
as possible, by the time he returned for good, the marriage was gone.
While Charles was off galloping into his career, I was slowly backing into
mine. I held several jobs while a student at UNC, and wrote for the DTH,
and got involved in a recall election brought on partly by the maltreatment
of a football coach. I formed a little jazzband, and we played anything for
anybody— mostly jazz, but also rock, polkas, square dances . . . anything that
paid. When the great 1956-57 basketball team started its winning ways, we
found ourselves unable to get tickets to the games. So we donned our white
dinner jackets, straw boaters, collected our instruments and showed up at the
east door of Woollen Gym. "Who are you?" they asked. "We're the band,"
we replied. "Oh . . . okay, come on in." Thus we became Carolina's first, if
entirely self-servLie, pep band, and watched every home game of that cham-
pionship season from the aisle just beneath the east goal. We played all the Tar
Heel songs, mixing in some Dixieland, and even took a shot at the national
anthem on one occasion.
I soon tired of working at the Pine Room from 6 to 8 a.m., setting up
lunch (all to earn meals only, no money), and working at Graham Memorial,
looking up telephone numbers and handing out ping-pong paddles much of
the afternoon. I needed a real job. So I walked up one side of Franklin Street
and down the other, applying for anything. The next-to-last building before
the church was The Intimate Bookshop. By this time, I was just disgusted
enough to put down anything on the application form. "Can add, perform
most other functions, take orders, give orders and keep my mouth shut when
appropriate," I wrote. I got the job — forty cents an hour— partly, I think, because
Bunny Smith had known and respected Charles from two years before.
Turnover in the bookshop personnel was rapid. Within two years I was
the senior staff member except for the manager— who one night went off with
a lovely junior staff member, leaving just me to run the shop. I became manager
(fifty cents an hour). I took a wife, bought a house (again, the parental subsidy
came into play) and then, after a seven-year apprenticeship, sold my lovely Austin-
Healey roadster to raise $1,000 earnest money to buy the bookshop. At age
26, I owed over a quarter of a million dollars — in 1965 money— with interest.
All of this was a long way from our upbringing. Charles is about four
and a half years older than I, so he surely remembers more about Birmingham
and Atlanta. In Birmingham, I remember, you could walk up the muddy red
slope behind the house and look down into the whole town, more lights and
smoke than you could ever imagine. Our front yard was three small terraces,
one below the other, joining a street which pitched to the left at a steep angle.
I discovered that my brother's baseball, tossed with fierce intensity, would tumble
across each successive terrace, roll into the street, take a sharp left turn and never
again be seen. It also worked with a neighboring child's baseball.
In Atlanta, the terrain was more level and, of course, my world was that
of a mobile five-year-old. And Donnie and Doug across the street, whose mother
let them walk on their bed in muddy galoshes. They told me so. My own mother
found this practice unamusing. I gladly joined my brother and his friends when
they went out in the woods behind the house with my mother's Cub Scout
troop. I was tickled when I, the tag-along, was the only one who could iden-
tify the leaf of the peach tree. It was on every can of peaches, after all. But
I also learned that emulating the actions of older children could be hazardous.
Charles and his friends delighted in using a neighbor's swing, a heavy wooden
chair supported from a high tree limb by four stranded-wire cables. When they
tired of swinging up and down, they would twist the chair around and around
and then let go, causing a dizzying wobble — and also kinking the cables. When
Donnie and Doug and I once tried the same trick, the neighbor came roaring
out of the back door: "So you're the ones ruining my swing," he shouted, as
we raced for home.
And I learned that the rules aren't always what they seem. When playing
"I Spy," I often found myself "It." Whenever I'd "spy" somebody, they'd either
tear off for home base before I could get there, or would yell "Oh, no you
don't," and run in the opposite direction. This was puzzling and frustrating.
So, when I came around the corner of a house and spied Charles — and so an-
nounced my find — and he denied it, I picked up a handy rock, flung it in his
direction, and managed to find that soft spot on the crown of the head upon
which to "bean" him gently.
Well! Blood was everywhere. Screaming. I sat down in the yard and
watched as the kindly nurse from up the street took Charles in hand, pressed
a handkerchief to his bloody head and helped him on a wobbly walk across
the street to mother. I don't recall feeling much guilt, but all the screaming
had certainly dulled the satisfaction of a lucky hit. He wouldn't really die,
would he? Would I get his room if he did? I don't recall the punishment, but
it probably beat the talking-to about the muddy shoes on the bed.
Big brothers could certainly spoil good fun, too, I found, by pointing out
right and wrong very much in the manner of parents. There we were, Donnie
and Doug and I, bringing home the second wagon-load of Billy Bussie's toys,
when Charles happened to notice all this activity. It is true, he explained, that
Billy Bussie is moving to Memphis with his family. But, he said, they are not
planning to leave all these toys behind. We must take them back.
We were perplexed. Was this another joke? Was this like telling us he'd
race me on his bike to the bottom of the hill and even give me a head start,
then when I'd ride my little Elgin like the wind and look around, victorious,
at the bottom of the hill, there would be no-one else in sight? We returned
the toys, but we did check later to see if they were gone.
The idea to go out on the train trestle was our own. Donnie and Doug
ran to safety when the train came out of the woods. I was paralyzed. I laid
down on the wooden cross-ties beside the rail, looking down into the busy
street below, as the train passed completely over me. I'm told healthy people
fainted on Piedmont Road before I picked myself up and trotted off along after
the train toward home.
When we moved to Charlotte, where we both feel we "grew up," our
worlds truly changed and expanded. I went off to school now, and we both
learned how to hitch-hike in to the bus stop, some six miles away. Friends were
rather far-flung, but we both learned the closest paths through the woods to
get over to their houses, and we knew everybody within several miles. We could
filch a turnip from a neighbor's field on the way (we even carried little packets
of salt for the occasion), or lounge in the mulberry tree at the edge of Mr.
Shrum's lower pasture, eating mulberries and swapping lies — some of them about
how good those mulberries tasted. We learned about human nature, a little
about animals, too.
I once brought home a big tabby cat that had befriended me along the
way. He was a beauty, all fluffy, with a loud purr. As I brought him in the
front door, my mother asked if I was sure the other cats wouldn't mind. "The
cats won't fight," I maintained. After all, dogs fight cats. Just then, as our big
black Tom strolled into the hall, there was a sudden explosion in my arms,
claws were sunk deep into my chest and shoulder as the tabby leapt for the
safety of the hanging hall light. When he hit the floor, he was nothing but
a blur as he and the Tom grabbed, spit, bounced off the walls and stairs and
sent tufts of fur and fluff flying into the air. For some minutes after this stun-
ning display, after the tabby had managed to flee through the open front door,
bits of dust and hair could be seen floating in the sunlight of the front hall.
After that, we still took in many strays, but only those who managed to gain
prior acceptance on their own.
Dad had moved us all to Charlotte to become the head of the welfare depart-
ment, as it was called then. Mecklenburg, the largest county, had a woefully
small staff at the time. Many evenings, dad went out to collect some luckless
soul or another who needed some place to stay, and sometimes these folks wound
up at our house. One man, Eddie, who was called "simple," a big bear of a
man in blue coveralls, seemed to have more trouble than most. We learned,
I think, that the least privileged of us all still had a dignity, and deserved the
compassion and safety and care afforded anyone else.
My mother went on to become a social worker, too, after we got out of
the house. She admitted only once to having done what she called "bad social
work." A young daughter of a client was the only one in her school class who
didn't have white boots to wear to school, a fact which was causing the girl
to feel great shame for herself and her family. My mother took the girl downtown
and bought her those boots, herself. We learned that the rules can't always be
Summers were often spent in Onslow County, at the home of Grandmother
Bishop. John Bishop, an early idol of my brother, is just a blur of memory
to me. But Grandmother made flapjacks, gave us oranges with metal tubes stuck
into them to help pull out all the juice, and let us help put wood in the cookstove
and pump water on the back porch. We learned that, while life could be hard
at times, it also held wonderful pleasures. We helped out at tobacco time, riding
the sleds through the fields behind the mule, proudly "helping" by holding
down all the leaves picked so far. We were allowed to stay up late and help
with the curing; we'd pull up the thermometer and watch solemnly for the
little wax cone in the window to start tipping over, all the while listening to
wonderful tall tales and enjoying glasses of lemonade.
One interesting sidelight to life in Onslow County: My grandmother's
family, the Gurganuses, live on the southwest branch of the New River. The
river had been the only roadway in the early years there. Some eight or ten
families seemed to own most of the county, and the population was truly sparse.
And while there were probably no other persons named Gurganus within a
thousand miles of Onslow County, there was another such family in Onslow
County, on the northeast branch of the river. However, my mother insisted,
these Gurganuses were of no relation to us. We learned that family matters can
become convoluted, indeed.
There were no libraries nearby in that rural area outside of Charlotte, but
there were plenty of books in the house. My favorite was a thick volume called
Folk Tales of All Nations, which I read over and over again. And Fair Play and
Manners Can Be Fun, both by Munro Leaf. Later on we could tackle the full
sets of Dickens, O. Henry, Goldsmith, Shakespeare and Mark Twain, and those
marvellous volumes of the Wonder Books, and Richard Halliburton's books
of travels, both the Occident and the Orient.
So we were readers from the very beginning. Later on, the radio would
usurp some of our interest, particularly Tom Mix, Jack Armstrong, Sky King,
and the comedy shows. But we never stopped reading. Television was certainly
a fascinating new toy, but, early on, most of it was so silly as to pose little
competition to a good book.
We were even involved in early television. In the early '50s, I played my
guitar and sang a soprano "You Are My Sunshine" on Fred Kirby's "Round-
Up" show as part of the Charlotte Boys Choir, while, upstairs, Charles worked
in the summer for WBTV in downtown Charlotte speaking in a rich baritone
as a substitute announcer. Those were good days. We got a new 1951 Chevrolet,
replacing grandmother's 1938 model, which had proved so sturdy and invaluable
during the early years in Charlotte. Charles had his older friends, of course,
but was happy to exercise his new driving license to take me a few miles away
to the house of one of my buddies. Or Charles and I would roam the woods
behind the house, exploring the creek in both directions, naming every little
"cove" and "rapids," and searching each pool for crayfish and minnows. Poppa
made root beer from packaged extract and yeast, and stored it deep in the waters
of the spring to age and to chill.
And, when all else palled, we had the "bustin' grounds" to amuse us. All
country people used the nearest out-of-sight gulley for dumping trash, and,
before plastic, this included a great many glass bottles. We would line them
up and throw at them until they were all broken or we ran out of stones. Later
on, we'd take aim with a .22 rifle at the tin cans, being careful to make sure
errant shots went into the clay bank behind the target. Archaeologists will some-
day label this a ritual spot for exorcising destructive tendencies, as well it may
have been. You could break a Mason jar with a little tap, but medicine bottles
required good aim and plenty of power.
When Grandmother Bishop came to live with us after the war, bringing
her car, she sold off all the old farm — that enchanting old house and the acres
and acres of fertile farmland — and helped supplement the family finances at a
time when Charles was off at college, I was preparing to go, and our little
sister Catherine was fitted for braces on her teeth. Many years earlier, she and
the family had agreed to sell their half of a useless piece of land down at the
North Carolina coast. This land had been given to a Gurganus for his efforts
during the Revolution and, as my grandmother said, if they gave land accord-
ing to how you fought, he must have been a mighty poor soldier, at that, as
it was mostly swamp and a little bare island. They used to load the hogs up
on a barge and pole them over to this spit of land; the hogs would run down
into the surf and catch the little sand-crabs for dinner, and then be punted back
to home. That hog-farm is now called Topsail Island.
Our dad did a little better with real estate. When he was out driving around
the state, installing offices for the new Social Security Administration, he noticed
a piece of land near Fayetteville. He bought it with a mind to raise Scupper-
nong grapes for a living— and to have a place to scratch out a living if the depres-
sion were to get any worse. But the soil lacked something, and the vines would
only live a few years and then die off— and then a wildfire destroyed the rest
of them. So he leased the land for enough to pay the mortgage and the taxes,
and later sold it for a tidy sum when I was in school. He took all of the money
and put it into chemical stocks, feeling that plastics were a coming thing, and
his money grew nicely. Then he switched to power companies and came up
with a solid retirement fund to add to the Social Security and government retire-
ment payments. Still, Charles and our lovely sister Catherine and I have each
been allowed to make use of these shares of stock at times to help fund homes
and business interests until we could get on our feet.
We've had some incredible advantages. We've had parents — and grand-
parents—who've cared about us and have generously showed it. We've manag-
ed to escape danger and elude poor health. We've been given the benefit of
an extraordinary education: Early reading and travel: the privilege of attending
a great university, talking with and learning from brilliant people, learning how
to learn, discovering from our samplings just what it is we want to learn. We've
had music in our lives, a good brush with religion, the means to explore those
avenues of interest which truly attracted us, and the pleasure of some lovely
company along the way.
Luck, too. I just happened to land in the book business, and I can't think
of a more satisfying lane to have traipsed along through my life — plenty of side
roads, surprises and serendipity.
Charles has really made most of his luck. He decided early on to take the
job with the newspaper when just out of college — at half the salary offered
by the TV station. But he wanted to write the news, not just read it; he offered
to write a special feature about "people" on his own time for no extra pay (and
even develop his own pictures), a feature which won a prize that eventually
landed him in New York. He played by the rules there, and then, once he had
some credentials, invited the establishment to let him try out a novel idea — that
of just touring around in a bus looking for stories out in the land between the
important news centers. The baskets of letters from viewers convinced everyone
that the idea was a good one.
But one of the best pieces of good luck ever to come to Charles was not
made known to him until much later. In 1965, Charles was dispatched to Hyde
Park, to prepare a report on the imminent death of Sir Winston Churchill and
his connections with President Roosevelt. This, you may recall, was before the
widespread use of videotape, and very few film pieces were available for use.
Charles stayed up all night preparing to do a "live" review of the life of Sir
Winston. On the morning of Churchill's death, Charles, calling on his own
studies of history, inspired by his university experiences, recounted the many
triumphs of the great man, citing his speeches and placing the hero in the fabric
of British history; Charles was before the cameras without a break for more
than 30 minutes, speaking from a text prepared only in his experience and educa-
tion, there at the end when the announcement came of the passing of the great
man. When the picture returned to the New York studios, Eric Sevareid turned
to his colleague, Walter Cronkite, and, greatly moved, declared Charles's presen-
tation one of the best jobs of news reporting he had ever seen.
Such comments were evidently not lost on the CBS brass. While others often
complained of over-control from "upstairs," Charles was usually left to prepare
and present his reports in his own way.
You don't just luck into ten or so Emmy Awards, three Peabody Awards
and the DuPont Award, or become Broadcaster of the Year just because of your
connections. Your good looks alone won't cause Time Magazine to call you the
"laureate of the common man." Your books don't show up on the best-seller
lists every week for a year because you were in the right place at the right time.
You're not presented with 15 or 20 honorary degrees because people like your
smile; you don't find yourself in halls of fame because a coin came up the right
way. Some of the awards Charles receives are just in good fun. During the
bicentennial year, as he moved about the country collecting stories, he found
himself being honored in many different ways. As Roland Giduz reports in his
recent book, Who's Gonna Cover 'Em Up?, Charles was made a Kentucky Col-
onel at one stop, and an official member of an Indian tribe at the next. His
cameraman of many years, Izzy Bleckman, suggested, sardonically, that Charles
was working his way up to honorary Jew.
In 1986, the bicentennial year of the Statue of Liberty, Charles called upon
me and asked to use some of the videotape scenes which I had shot the previous
year on a visit to Slovenia, then the northwest part of Jugoslavia. Over some
years of investigation, I had discovered that the Kuralts had originally come
from Bavaria; they had travelled, in about the year 1000, with the Bishops of
Freising, over the Julian Alps and down into the Pannonian Plain. The Bishops
had been given a huge tract of land on the eastern slopes by the Holy Roman
Emperor Otto II in 976. Their task was to build a castle at Skofj'a Loka, near
present-day Ljubljana, to stop the flow of Magjars and other tribes from the
east down into Italy. Many of the records were kept in Slovene, and comprise
the earliest example of any written Slavic language, and are now kept in the
castle. Among those writings is a record of the ownership of a certain "huba"
number 5 — farm number 5 — in the village of Zabnica. In 1380, it was owned
by a Kuralt, and it remains so to this day. I was to find, from a Kuralt genealogist
in Ljubljana, that the grandfather of the grandfather of my grandfather had
spent much of his life as owner of that farm before leaving in the mid-18th
century, probably for Graz, now in southern Austria.
Through a Slovenian publishing house, I had obtained a copy of the telephone
directory for the area, about the size of eastern North Carolina. I had written
to everyone in the book, gotten a dozen or so letters in return, and we went
to spend a week in their land. We invited everyone to a "re-union," apparently
unheard of in Jugoslavia, and, despite dire predictions by the hotel manage-
ment, 85 Kuralts showed up! In that area, to be a Kuralt was rather like being
a Yates in Chapel Hill. Certainly, they were all related, but who really cared?
Well, there were folks from every walk of life: A lawyer, two doctors, an
electrician, several working in television and printing, the mother of an Olym-
pic skiing champion, teachers, a priest, realtors, insurance men, a wine maker,
and yes, still a few farmers. There was also a member of the police, a man
something like a magistrate in their system. He and his group sat rather apart
from the others. He was, of course, a Communist. I recalled that many of the
others had pronounced the word "communists" with a decided hiss in their
voices. Oh, my God, I thought. The cats won't fight, will they? They didn't.
It turns out that many of these Kuralts were descendents of wine mer-
chant Janez Kuralt who, over the years and several wives, had 32 children. On
the occasion of his 100th birthday, he was photographed at his party being served
cake by his 14-year-old daughter.
We had shot a lot of videotape of our reunion party, the people, the coun-
tryside and its magnificent scenery. Charles used parts of it in his story which
closed the CBS News broadcast July 4, 1986. In it, he noted that on the Fourth
of July we celebrate our ancestors, the ones who struggled to get to the United
States and managed to come through Ellis Island and survive in this new world —
and make us American. Let's not forget those who stayed, he said; those who
suffered through the wars, the famine, the political and social upheaval, and
the desperate times. Showing the tape of our party in Ljubljana, he said, "My
brother had a wonderful time with all these people. . .. All I could think of,
watching them, was Joseph Andreas Kuralt, the one who didn't stay. You have
somebody like that in your own past, the one who left all the scenes of home
behind and took the great chance. Whoever he was, he wasn't easily fright-
ened. Before the day ends, let's have a toast to him."
Well, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Charles has a way of making difficult stories come out looking easy. It
takes a lot of hard work, no doubt, and talent honed by years of experience.
Of course, hard work doesn't have to be unpleasant. And help comes from many
quarters, some of it entirely unexpected. His television crews, both the remarkable
guys who've toured the country with him all these years and the New York
studio bunch, are all consummate professionals, some of the best anywhere at
their craft. Well-wishers from all over the country pass along story ideas, more
than he could use in a lifetime. And, occasionally, he is sought out in person
by someone who has a story to tell.
When Charles went to Russia with President Reagan in 1988, other reporters
were too busy to pay attention to an elderly Russian man who sought out the
television crews and asked anxiously if he might meet with someone. Charles
obliged him. They met at a park bench, and the man told Charles, through
an interpreter, that he had been a prisoner of the Nazis in a camp which also
housed a number of American prisoners some yards away in a separate com-
pound. As the camp's only dentist, he regularly talked with the Americans,
and he hatched a plot with an American officer. The Americans enjoyed much
better conditions than the Russians, who had little to eat and were ill-clothed.
The Americans offered to share their resources, and would regularly heave a
bag of food, cigarettes and clothing over the fences when the guards weren't
watching, tons of supplies over a period of months, doubtlessly saving the lives
of many of the Russian prisoners.
The camp commandant discovered the activity and forced the Americans
to stand out in the compound all day until someone would disclose the name
of the Russian organizer. No one did. It would have meant certain death to
the dentist and, possibly, to many others, as well. The elderly Russian had written
down the names of some of the American prisoners and their home towns,
and now wanted to find a way to thank his benefactors after all these years.
The political story Charles produced was most moving and impressive,
and included much pomp and ceremony and the power of international diplomacy
and the two national leaders. Charles's handling of the information brought
to him by the elderly Russian dentist helped bring to light another powerful
story— an homage to all of man, if you will. The Russian and several of his
fellow prisoners were later brought to the United States for a "re-union" with
the American officer and others who had been prisoners in that same camp,
a fitting cap to a wonderful story.
Andy Rooney, the wonderfully curmudgeonly commentator for CBS, step-
ped out of that role at a recent "roast" held for Charles. He said that "while
Charles is fond of saying that he doesn't cover any of the 'important' stories,
he doesn't really believe that. I think most writers hope they are writing in
metaphor— that is, what they are saying stands for a lot more than the specific
example they are using at the time, and I think Charles Kuralt feels that in
the examples he uses of Americans around this country that he is pointing to
a better America, and I think he has something better in mind than the specific
person he is talking about at the time. It's the good thing about his pieces."
Charles points up the very good things that go on in this world. And he does
it with a certain style, one that others have had difficulty in copying, Rooney
said. He added, "Charles Kuralt does more things well than anybody in our
business. Not only that, he does them better than anybody in our business.
He's the best writer, the best reporter, the best producer and he presents his
material on the air better than anybody else. And in addition to that, he manages
to be a nice guy all the time."
What you see is what you get.
And, I'd have to say, he's a pretty nice fellow to be the "Brother Of," as well.
Presentation of the
North Caroliniana Society Award
William C. Friday
Wallace, that applause tells you how grateful we all are for that wonderful
paper. We are glad that you are Charles's younger brother, that you are presi-
dent of the YIATBO/SO Club of Chapel Hill, and that you live and work
Now I have the privilege of making a presentation on behalf of the North
In the New York Times in 1992 this sentence appeared: "People talk too
much on television and things go too fast." That's why CBS Sunday morning
was born. My authority for that is Charles Kuralt. For fifteen years or thereabouts,
CBS Sunday Morning has been a show about a deer running through the woods
or a group of people in straw hats out counting birds or an art exhibit or the
milestones or weather predictions or the fellow in bib overalls talking about
a place in Nebraska. It is a show about the heart of America, human dignity,
human kindness, and personal courage. It is a show about all of us. Just by
letting nature speak, Charles can lay claim to having aired more silence than
any other show in the history of television. But it is those issue-oriented essays
that introduce the show that mold the thinking in our country— our thinking
about places, about the human condition, about those who need help. And
these essays often bring on action. As we all know they have won countless
awards, and Bill Geist and John Leonard and Eugenia Zuckerman and Betsy
Aaron and all the rest follow his gentle lead as he weaves together a thoughtful
and instructive experience for all of us each Sunday morning.
So, Charles, we are pleased with all the Emmys, the Peabodys, and the
other awards that you have received from your peers. We are proud of your
recognition, dear friend, as the watchful guardian and eloquent spokesman for
those who have no powerful voice of advocacy in our society. But this evening,
in presenting you the North Caroliniana Society Award, I do so on behalf of
all of your friends and contemporaries here at home not only because we are
proud of what you have achieved and your splendid career but because you have
achieved this great acclaim by being yourself, and by always carrying with you
your Tar Heel and University heritage. So we salute you tonight as North
Carolina's ambassador to all countries and all lands and all peoples, and we do
so with a grateful heart. Here you are, Charles.
I don't know how long I have been reading the proceedings of these meetings
in the attractive monographs that H. G. Jones sends out, and thinking, one
of these years I'm going to have to get to one of those dinners. I am awfully
glad that I finally did.
There are many satisfactions for me in this evening. To receive this award
from the hand of Bill Friday, the greatest North Carolinian of them all in my
opinion, heart-felt and and long-held ....
To meet so many old friends, and people whose acquaintance I treasure,
and so many others I have admired for so long ....
To hear a speech about myself from my brother,, some of it true. . ..
To have our father present, who has been our infallible guide and guardian
and hero for all the years of our lives, and who still inspires my brother and
sister and me, and who is still giving service to our state. Way back when I
was young, we lived in a number of rented premises, about which my father
was always planting trees and flowers and grapevines. When I asked him why,
he said you should always leave a place better than you found it. That he cer-
tainly has done in North Carolina.
Other members of my family send their good wishes to you. My wife,
Petie, stayed home to wrestle with an eye problem, figuring it was better to
leave me on my own tonight than to end up blind in one eye. My sister, Catherine,
had hoped to be here but was detained by developments in the family business
in Seattle. My daughter, Lisa, had planned to come, but finds herself house-
bound in Winston-Salem with a 7-year-old and a one-year-old, my grandsons,
and a husband whose company picked this week to send him on one of his
periodic trips to Hong Kong rather than permit him to stay home and baby-
sit, as he had planned to do. My other daughter, Susan, is in the midst of an
intense advertising campaign in New York, and without her presence there,
as I understand it, the old firm of Young & Rubicam may fail by Monday.
But all the Kuralts are here in spirit.
And the final satisfaction for this Kuralt is to find that even after a long en-
forced absence in exile, I am still counted a North Carolinian. I am very proud
to be one.
A Kuralt Album
21 May 1993
Top, President Friday and Charles Kuralt are captured by photographer Hugh Morton
before the broadcaster addressed a crowd of 300 in the afternoon. (Lower photo, and
others except as noted, by Jerry Cotten.)
At dinner President Friday (right) chats with the Kuralts — Wallace, Jr., Wallace,
Sr., and Charles. Below, Wallace, Sr., is flanked by Wallace, Jr., and Brenda.
Brother Wallace, Jr., delivered the main address (top); at bottom, Charles Kuralt
accepts the North Caroliniana Society Award, which sits at left. (Lower photo by
Charles Kuralt is greeted by old friends: Top, with Clarence Whitejield; bottom,
with John Ehle.
Top, with Bill Finlator; bottom, with Georgia Kyser.
Top, with Frank and Julia Daniels; bottom, with William and Gloria Blythe.
Top, with Bill Cochrane; bottom, with Roy Parker, Jr.
Top, discussing the Arctic with H. G. Jones (photo by Hugh Morton); bottom, Ida
Friday and Gladys Coates.
Top, John Sanders, Chris Fordham, and Julia Morton; bottom, Bill and Virginia
Powell, flanked by sons Charles and his wife Janet (left) and John and his wife
The North Carolinians Society. Inc.
North Carolina Collection
Wilson Library, UNC Campus Box 3930
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3930
Chartered by the Secretary of State on 11 September 1975 as a private nonprofit corporation under provisions
of Chapter 55A of the General Statutes of North Carolina, the North Caroliniana Society is dedicated to the
promotion of increased knowledge and appreciation of North Carolina's heritage. This it accomplishes in a variety
of ways: encouragement of scholarly research and writing in and the teaching of state and local history; publica-
tion of documentary materials, including the numbered, limited-edition North Caroliniana Society Imprints and
North Caroliniana Society Keepsakes; sponsorship of professional and lay conferences, seminars, lectures, and exhibi-
tions; commemoration of historic events, including sponsorship of markers and plaques; and assistance to the
North Carolina Collection and North Carolina Collection Gallery of the University of North Carolina Library
and other cultural organizations, such as the Friends of the Library, the Friends of the Archives, the North Carolina
Literary and Historical Association, the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina, and the North Carolina
Incorporated by H. G. Jones, William S. Powell, and Louis M. Connor, Jr., who soon were joined by a
distinguished group of North Carolinians, the Society was limited to one hundred members for its first decade.
However, it does elect from time to time additional individuals meeting its strict criterion of "adjudged perfor-
mance" in service to their state's culture — i.e., those who have demonstrated a continuing interest in and support
of the historical, literary, and cultural heritage of North Carolina. The Society, a tax-exempt organization under
provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, expects service rather than dues. For its programs,
it depends upon the contributions, bequests, and devises of its members and friends. Its IRS number is 56-1119848.
Upon request, contributions to the Society may be counted toward membership in the Chancellors' Club. The
Society administers the Archie K. Davis Fund, given in 1987 by the Research Triangle Foundation in honor of
its retiring board chairman and the Society's longtime president.
A highlight of the Society's year is the presentation of the North Caroliniana Society Award for long and
distinguished service in the encouragement, production, enhancement, promotion and preservation of North
Caroliniana. Starting with Paul Green, the Society has recognized Tar Heels such as Albert Coates, Sam J. Ervin,
Jr., Sam Ragan, Gertrude S. Carraway, John Fries Blair, William and Ida Friday, William S. Powell, Mary and
James Semans, David Stick, William M. Cochrane, Emma Neal Morrison, and Burke Davis. The proceedings
of the awards banquets, published in the Imprints series, furnish rare glimpses into the lives of those recognized.
The Society has its headquarters in the North Carolina Collection, the "Conscience of North Carolina," which
seeks to preserve for present and future generations all that has been or is published by North Carolinians
regardless of subject and about North Carolina and North Carolinians regardless of author or source. In this mis-
sion the Collection's clientele is far broader than the University community; indeed, it is the entire citizenry
of North Carolina, as well as those outside the state whose research extends to North Carolina or North Carolin-
ians. Members of the North Caroliniana Society share a very special relationship to this unique Collection that
dates back to 1844 and stands unchallenged as the largest and most comprehensive repository in America of published
materials about a single state. The North Carolina Collection Gallery, opened in 1988, adds exhibition and inter-
pretive dimensions to the Collection's traditional services. These combined resources fulfill the vision of President
David L. Swain (1801-1868), who founded the Collection; Librarian Louis Round Wilson (1876-1979), who
nurtured it; and Philanthropist John Sprunt Hill (1869-1961), who generously endowed it. All North Carolinians
are enriched by this precious legacy.
Board of Directors (1992)
William C. Friday, President
Archie K. Davis, President Emeritus
William S. Powell, Vice-President
Willis P. Whichard, Vice-President
H. G. Jones, Secretary and Treasurer
William McWhorter Cochrane Nancy Cobb Lilly
Frank Borden Hanes George Elliot London
Betty Hodges Edward L. Rankin, Jr.
Frank H. Kenan John L. Sanders
Henry W Lewis William D. Snider
84 21 CHI XL